Duluth, MN – Championship teams figure out how to deal with adversity. After a frustrating loss to the #5 UMD Bulldogs on Friday, the Huskies were dealt another blow knowing they’d be without one of their top scorers Kevin Fitzgerald and their assistant captain and senior Jacob Benson for the rematch. Fitzgerald, it appears, will be lost until playoff time courtesy a shoulder to shoulder hit by UMD’s Nick Wolfe and an undetermined timetable for Benson. So, the lines were juggled again for the series finale with the Bulldogs. Additionally, a gut decision by the coaching staff had David Hrenak back in goal after allowing three goals on 18 shots on Friday. Finding themselves down by two goals late in the first period, the Huskies put things in gear and scored twice late in the period and rallied for an important 4-2 win and split of the weekend road series with UMD.
Things were beginning to look dire for the Huskies after a goal by Riley Tufte 3:13 into the contest off a quick wrister and another by Justin Richards from the right slot on the power play at 13:37 for a 2-0 UMD advantage.”We expected a lot of pressure and they put us on our heals early” said coach Brett Larson. With the Bulldogs Nick Wolfe in the penalty box for holding, the Huskies Spencer Meier (Ahcan | Newell) finally scored on the power play, their first of the weekend on their sixth opportunity of the series at 17:51. On the tail end of the power play, Patrick Newell attacked the UMD zone and fed Ahcan back at the point who found Spencer Meier near the right circle who beat Shepard glove side on a quick wrist shot. This led to another goal less than a minute later again by a defenseman cheating into the zone. This time, on a very astute play by Jimmy Schuldt he intercepted a blind backhand by Parker McKay 10 feet in front of the goal and he ripped a quick shot past Shepard to suddenly tie the game at 2-2. The Huskies were outshot 8-6 in the period but narrowed the shot advantage late in the period and also had a shot by Patrick Newell go off the post earlier in period one.
The Huskies continued their improved play into the second period and completed their rally at 4:25 with a goal by Easton Brodzinski (Hentges | Miller) to take their first lead of the weekend series. Hentges retrieved the puck in the corner and fed Brodzinski who was not going to be upstaged by his high school teammate, Tufte who scored earlier in the game. Brodzinski froze defenseman Nick Wolfe with a toe drag and then backhanded the puck under Shepard for the game-winning goal, his 4th gamer of the season. In a closely fought period, the Huskies scored the lone goal and were outshot 13-12.
In a tense third period, Hrenak had to come to the aid of the Huskies making a big save on a Bulldog two on one four minutes into the period. Then, a tip in by Blake Lizotte was waved off due to a high stick much the same as an earlier goal was waved off on Riley Tufte.. A hooking penalty to Ryan Poehling had SCSU on the defensive with 10:26 remaining but they held tight and took a time-out with 6:22 remaining to give their defensive unit a rest.. A huge key to their success late in the period was the ability of Blake Lizotte to win several key faceoffs in the defensive zone. With UMD badly outshooting the Huskies in period three, the Huskies put the game away with a goal by Robby Jackson (Newell | B Lizotte) with 1:59 remaining. Newell fired a shot on goal from the right circle and Jackson was there to bury the rebound for the 4-2 final. The Bulldogs outshot SCSU 11-4 in the period.
UMD outshot the Huskies 32-22 for the contest with David Hrenak responding with a big game turning aside 30 of 32 shots on goal. UMD’s Shepard finally looked human after the Friday performance allowing four goals on 22 shots. SCSU was finally able to solve the UMD penalty kill scoring once in two opportunities. UMD was one for four on the man-advantage. The SCSU defense blocked 19 shots while UMD blocked 11. Faceoff wins were even at 24 to 24.
An obviously disappointed Scott Sandelin commented “We came out and played the first seven to eight minutes the way we need to play for 60 minutes and we weren’t willing to do it. We started getting caught which gave them some outnumbered rushes that gave them momentum, It’s not good enough right now. This team has got to learn and hopefully this is the last lesson they needed to learn. We need to be better and committed in certain areas of the game.”
Patrick Newell was the only Husky with a multi-point game with two assists.
The Huskies have another battle on their hands next weekend when they host second-place Western Michigan.
Stars of the Game: #1 Hrenak (SCSU) #2 Schuldt (SCSU) #3 Brodzinski (SCSU)